Hotel Security Vendors Embrace Mobile Check-in For Customer Satisfaction, Efficiency
By Timothy Shea President, ASSA ABLOY Hospitality | January 13, 2013
Today's increasingly mobile-friendly consumers are expressing a need for hospitality that centers on connection, convenience and comfort, and as such they are demanding more self-service options that incorporate mobile technologies into their hotel stays. It is often faster and easier to engage in automated self-service than to wait in a long queue to interact with hotel staff at the front desk. Hospitality technology is evolving quickly to meet these changing guest needs and expectations through mobile and online technologies.
For many hotel guests, self-service has become an amenity unto itself, and there is no better way to meet travelers' demand for self-service than to enable them to check into a hotel on their own terms. A recent Harvard Business Review study even concluded that self-service is the top customer service desire and the most important key to building loyalty in today's marketplace. Although there remain some in the hotel industry who doubt the value of self-service check-in, skeptics need only look to the success that the airlines have had with the model. SITA, the airline industry's leading technology organization, surveyed travelers and determined they desire even more self-service options. When given the choice between traditional check-in and self-service, more than twice as many travelers surveyed by SITA chose self-service.
Thus, hotel security vendors are exploring a variety of ways to employ emerging mobile access technologies, such as Near Field Communication (NFC), to convert mobile phones and other devices into guestroom keys. Besides being novel, this advanced technology provides added convenience and time-savings by allowing guests to skip the traditional front desk check-in process entirely, while easing hotels' bottom lines through reduced staff requirements.
For instance, the ASSA ABLOY NFC Mobile Keys solution by VingCard Elsafe allows hotel guests to check-in remotely, via desktop computer or web-enabled mobile device, and bypass the front desk at check-in by using their NFC-enabled mobile phones as virtual guestroom keys. The solution securely delivers to the guest's mobile device their designated hotel room numbers and digital encrypted hotel keys. Upon arrival, the guest may bypass the front desk and proceed directly to the room, which is unlocked by simply holding the phone near an access reader on the door.
NFC is a short-range wireless communication standard that facilitates the exchange of encrypted data between devices over about 10 centimeters. Although NFC is not yet widely available on the consumer market, its time is coming very soon. It is expected that a third of all mobile phones shipped in 2015 will be NFC-capable, and some models-including the popular Samsung Galaxy S III-already include the technology. In fact, Samsung teamed with IHG last summer to equip Holiday Inn London Stratford City with NFC locks as a way to promote the Galaxy S III, and the Olympics-timed pilot program was a hit with guests.
The first NFC hotel pilot test was conducted at Clarion Hotel Stockholm in 2010. A survey of participating guests found that almost all would take advantage of the technology again if it were available. A majority said the service enhanced the enjoyment of their stays, and all participants expressed appreciation for not having to wait in line to check-in. More than half said the self-service offering saved 10 minutes or more compared to the normal check-in process.
In the meantime, until NFC gains more widespread adoption, some vendors are incorporating current technology into the NFC-enabled locks to bridge the gap. The VingCard Elsafe offering uses radio frequency identification (RFID) as the guestroom access protocol on its NFC devices, with later conversion to NFC designed as a simple process without the need to add any new hardware.